A Series of Unfortunate Events: Adaptation Discussion (1)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning 1 & 2

I am not a die hard fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I don’t know if I can even call myself a fan, yet. I have only read the first book in the series, after all. But, I thought that I would seize the opportunity to take in the book series and the Netflix series back to back, and look at the adaptation from a fairly impartial lens.

That being said, this post is going to be full of spoilers. So if you have not watched the first two episodes of the Netflix series, or if you haven’t read the first book, look away. (That’s a hilarious joke if you’ve watched the show. You should go watch it so you understand why we’re all laughing.)

  • Alright. First things first: I absolutely love Neil Patrick Harris singing the theme song. It’s so perfect. As is the fact that they’re including the dedications at the beginning. Right from the get-go, I feel like they are trying to be really true to the books, which is nice. They’re building trust with the fan base.
  • I absolutely love Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket, and I feel like having Lemony Snicket narrate gives the series the same kind of snarky, oddball sense of morose humour that the books have.
  • Watching the Baudelaires work together at their mansion warmed my heart, and I enjoyed getting to see them before their parents perishing.
  • That shot in the car with the house reflected in the window is a beautiful moment and I’m just digging the aesthetics of this series so far.
  • Mrs. Poe makes me want to throw things, and I am far more frustrated with the Poe family overall in these episodes than I was when I was reading. Maybe actually seeing them makes it more infuriating? I don’t know.
  • Does anybody know why the Poe kid thought that Violet and Klaus set the fire? Was that just supposed to support the joke about one of them being a banker and the other one living in a cave? Or does that come into play later? That whole moment really confused me.
  • Count Olaf’s introduction was utter perfection. Going from the bright and cheery colour palette at Justice Strauss’ home, following the cute little bluebird across the street, and watching it get taken out by that raven/crow right in front of Count Olaf’s face…you just sat there and watched hope and light and goodness get mangled by evil. It was glorious.
  • Can I just say that Klaus’ facial expressions are Jim-Halpert-looking-at-the-cameral-in-The-Office level? Because I’m going to say it.
  • I love how we’re getting jerked around a little bit with our introductions to Count Olaf. First we get the bird thing, which might as well be a flashing neon “evil” sign. Then we hear him practicing his introduction through the door – a lot more bumbling and goofy. Then he describes Mrs.Baudelaire as “flammable” – right back to sinister and evil. We don’t get a firm handle on what to really expect from Count Olaf. Is he just mean? Is he misunderstood? Is he evil? We don’t know! I love this. I’ll elaborate more later on.
  • “The shampoo is not tear free. If anything, it encourages tears.” 😂
  • “You can’t very well have book babies” — Justice Strauss knows the struggle too well, guys.
  • The musical number made me really uncomfortable. Did Count Olaf and his troupe perform this seriously? Did the production team just really want to do a big musical number because they snagged NPH and felt it would be a waste to not have a number? I don’t know. It still makes me uncomfortable.
  • In the book, the troupe applauds when Count Olaf slaps Klaus. In the episode, they do not. And I don’t like that they don’t applaud. When they applauded the slap, it made them absolutely complicit in the abuse. That was your cue, you knew that the troupe was completely on Count Olaf’s side and completely evil. Here, they seemed shocked by the slap (which is an appropriate reaction), and it sets Count Olaf apart from the rest of them. It makes you think that maybe the Baudelaires will be able to get one of the troupe on their side. It makes you feel like their might be someone actually in Count Olaf’s house, actually seeing what is really going on, that might be sympathetic to the Baudelaires. It gives you hope.
  • I really appreciated that Lemony Snicket immediately tells our audience that being in an abusive home is not “better than nothing”. I was a bit worried when they brought up that phrase earlier in the episode, but they dealt with it really well.
  • OK. HERE WE GO. This is the biggest departure from the books. At the end of the episode, we see that Mr. and Mrs. Baudelaire are still alive. I haven’t read the whole series, so I don’t know how this thing ends, but I can tell you, that at the end of book 1 (and at the end of book 2) we have no inkling whatsoever that the parents are alive. It introduces another layer of hope to the story. And this story is really about 3 bright, wonderful, charming, creative children in a hopeless situation, who manage to get themselves out of awful circumstances in the nick of time with no help from anyone else.
  • PART 2: The episode recap is excellent, I’m a big fan
  • Dying at Jacqueline hopping around with the tree tied to her back, roots dangling and everything
  • The guy with the hooked hands is sufficiently sinister (although he’s quite stupid, I feel like the whole playing poker with Sunny plotline dialed down the sinister quite a bit)
  • Major question: why do none of the adults find the even the idea of the theatrical marriage disgusting? Even if Count Olaf didn’t have an evil plan to literally marry Violet, the fact that the part that he chose for her was to be his bride is sufficiently cringe worthy. I know that one of the main points is that adults will overlook red flags and not listen to kids/take them seriously because it’s easier that way, and they don’t want to have to look evil in the eye, but I feel like the bruise on Klaus’ face and the fact that Count Olaf is orchestrating situations where he gets to be the romantic lead to his 14 year old charge are enormous red flags. Like, you see them waving beyond the barricade huge.
  • “I’ll touch whatever I want” CASE AND POINT. SO GROSS AND PERVY
  • Alright, continuation of my thoughts on Neil Patrick Harris’ take on Count Olaf. His comedic timing is absolutely brilliant, because the switch to sinister is so unexpected, and therefore all the more terrifying. It causes you to underestimate Olaf, until he’s truly evil. It’s harder to see coming. His bouts of evil genius are unpredictable, and an unpredictable villain is so much more dangerous than a predictable one. Olaf is horrifying, and that’s perfect.

So, overall I feel like this is a very accurate adaptation of the first book. Again, I haven’t read the whole series, so I can’t comment on how it fits in the overall arc of the series. I also can’t comment on whether the introduction of the parents is a complete departure from the original plot, or if it’s just a different way of telling the story.

Have you watched any of the Netflix series yet? How did you feel about the parents being introduced? Are you pleased with their casting choices? Do you feel like the aesthetic supports the story or detracts from it? Tell me!

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